SPIRALLING reports of missing-from-home youngsters will see more work being done to reduce alarming figures - after police revealed more than 250 under-18s in Barnsley were reported by concerned parents or carers in just a three-month period.
Improvements as to how police and council officers - who make up the Barnsley Safeguarding Children Partnership (BSCP) - deal with reports have been subsequently put forward following a probe and what can be done to reduce the likelihood of repeat incidents.
The Chronicle can reveal ‘inconsistencies’ were found during the study in how teams tackle repeat missing people and the locations they go to.
A total of 387 missing person reports were submitted to the police in the last quarter and 262 were for children under the age of 18, with about one in five relating to youngsters in care.
Approximately 25 per cent of the total reports were classed as ‘high risk’, meaning they were likely to be at risk of serious harm or pose a risk to the public.
A statement from the BSCP said: “Children running away and going missing from care, home and education is a central issue for us.
“Current research findings estimate that 25 per cent of children and young people who go missing are likely to suffer significant harm.
“Many children in care, missing from their placements, are vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation, especially children in residential care.
“South Yorkshire Police, as the lead agency for investigating and finding missing children, will respond to children and young people going missing based on ongoing risk assessments in line with current guidance.
“Even with strong systems and services that minimise the likelihood of young people running away, some young people will still feel that they have to run away.
“The council and the BSCP need to be alert to the risk of sexual exploitation or involvement in drugs, gangs or criminal activity such as trafficking and to be aware of local ‘hotspots’ as well as concerns about any individuals, who children run away to be with.”
Should a child under 18 be recorded as missing on three or more occasions or missing for a period of 72 hours, an ‘urgent’ multi-agency strategy meeting is held with partners to establish whether there is additional information available elsewhere that would support the locating and safeguarding of that child.
There is also a daily meeting between partners, attended by a number of other agencies, to discuss any of the missing persons and what support measures are in place.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson added: “We continue to work on training officers to understand the recording of crimes identified or suspected during a missing person investigation.
“Last year saw a total of 92 crime records created during or following a missing person investigation, of which 39.5 per cent of them related to a child under 18 years old.
“To date this year, 55 crimes have been recorded, of which 64 per cent relate to a child under 18 years old.
“This increase indicates ‘hidden’ crimes are being identified by the officer, or the child or young person is disclosing them which is an indicator of trust and confidence with police and partners.”